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Giants mull over art of getting out to fast start

Teammates divided on whether a strong record early is telltale for later success
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants insist that a fast start won't cement the course of their season. A clean break from the starting gate, however, could allow them to survive a stumble or two later in the year.

Common sense and sheer mathematics suggest that a fraction of the season won't make or break the Giants. Logic and recent events suggest otherwise. This could be a debate in which no theory is right or wrong. It might all come down to the basic truth that each year is different.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants insist that a fast start won't cement the course of their season. A clean break from the starting gate, however, could allow them to survive a stumble or two later in the year.

Common sense and sheer mathematics suggest that a fraction of the season won't make or break the Giants. Logic and recent events suggest otherwise. This could be a debate in which no theory is right or wrong. It might all come down to the basic truth that each year is different.

Here are the facts:

• Following the 2016 All-Star break, which they entered with the Major Leagues' best record, the Giants have recorded a 94-140 mark, worst in the bigs. That includes last year's 64-98 finish. The Giants' .395 winning percentage was their second-lowest in franchise history since 1903.

• The Giants owned a 9-17 record last year through the end of April and already were seven games out of first place. They faced National League West rivals in all but two of those games.

Video: Bochy looking for strong start in April 2018

• San Francisco ultimately went 29-47 against the NL West in 2017. One year earlier, by comparison, they reached the postseason after a 45-31 showing against the division that included above-.500 records against each division opponent.

• This year's schedule isn't quite as weighted toward NL West ballclubs at the outset. Nevertheless, the Giants play 23 of their first 31 games against division foes. This block of games includes 10 against the Dodgers, NL champions and perennial rivals.

Thus, the Giants can guarantee themselves respectability, within the division and in general, by thriving early.

But what about the following five months?

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"I'm kind of on the fence about it," left-hander Madison Bumgarner said before the Giants lost Saturday's Cactus League game to the A's, 8-3. "Obviously it's important to get off to a good start any time, especially when you're playing in your division. But at the same time, that first month's in no way going to define our season."

Bumgarner neatly articulated a balanced perspective. However, some baseball theorists believe that this particular group of Giants needs to establish confidence and regain its "swagger" -- the term often employed to define a healthy sense of boldness -- and therefore must win a preponderance of early-season games.

"I don't think we're ever ones to say certain games are more important than others, because they all count the same," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "But it definitely matters to get off to a good start this year, especially with how last year went. I think we all try to put last year behind us, but to get off to a good start definitely would erase last year from our minds."

Last year was unquestionably a lost year for the Giants. They followed April with a 13-16 May -- matching August for their best month of the season. Between, they went 18-34 to sink past San Diego into last place in the West.

"At the time, everybody chalked it up to a bad start," second baseman Joe Panik mused.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants